The school that was worst-hit by New Zealand’s first coronavirus wave, Marist College, has reached out to help schools that have been hit in the virus’s second wave.
The Catholic girls’ school, which was linked to 96 cases between March 22 and May 15, is just across the road from Mt Albert Grammar, where a new Covid-19 case was confirmed last night.
Both are close to Mt Albert Primary School, where a student was tested this week because family members had caught the virus. The test found that the child did not have the virus.
Marist College principal Raechelle Taulu, who caught the virus herself in March, has contacted the neighbouring schools.
“As a school we have reached out to our colleagues to offer our support,” she said.
“We understand that they will be working through their school processes and communicating closely with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service, the Ministry of Education, and their communities.
“We wish those that are unwell a speedy recovery. Our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time.”
The Marist cluster is New Zealand’s second-biggest Covid-19 cluster so far, its 96 cases beaten only by 98 linked to a wedding at Bluff on March 21, four days before the country went into lockdown.
The first known case at Marist College was a teacher who tested positive on March 22. No link to anyone who had travelled overseas has ever been found, and the infection source of the cluster is still listed by the Ministry of Health as “unknown”.
The college immediately closed for three days so that all close contacts of the teacher could be tested. By the time the three days were up, the whole country was in lockdown, and the school was unable to open again until May 18.
One Year 13 student told the Herald that at first, she felt shocked, but she knew she was safe at home with her family.
However, once she got on social media, that feeling changed.
“Talking to all of my cohort, many were panicking that they would catch it,” she said. “And having time off school would interfere with internals, UE, scholarships and all the upcoming fun events.”
She said the seniors also felt a responsibility to manage the wellbeing of the younger students as they heard many of the younger girls were very scared they would get sick, which added pressure. They began discussing among themselves what they could do to help.
Taulu told the Herald the school’s priority was to “wrap around” the teacher to make sure she had all the support she needed.
“Marist is an amazing community so I know that at the end of the day we will all look out for each other.”
By March 26, four students and seven teachers including Taulu herself had been found to have the virus.
In the end, 14 staff tested positive and the school told parents it was aware of 46 cases altogether including staff, students and their families.
The other 50 in the Ministry of Health total of 96 were traced to people in the Marist cluster but were outside the school’s immediate households.
The last case connected to the school was reported on May 15 after repeat testing of all staff and students in preparation for the school reopening on May 18.
The Ministry of Health said the person “first had symptoms nearly two months ago and had a previous negative test”.
“The result is considered a ‘weak positive’ and the person, who has been in isolation through the lockdown period, is not considered infectious now.”